An Old-Fashioned Cutting Garden

June 1, 2019

In Victorian times it was popular to have a special garden whose sole function was to provide flowers for cutting. This trend periodically enjoys revival, and with reason. While perennials and annuals can be grown together effectively, the food requirements for sustaining healthy perennials are excessive for annuals. And if one is going to gather cut flowers every morning or two, it is easier to do so in a garden that has been designed to be walked in.

Gardening being what it is, there are no fixed rules. But there are a few basic considerations. Water cutting flowers frequently so that their blooms are full and succulent. Remove spent blooms immediately so that energy does not get transferred to seed production. Morning is the best time to cut bouquets—the flowers have had a chance to rest from the stress of the day before and are often glistening with dew. Avoid putting pressure on the stems when you hold them. Gardeners have described in detail the best methods for cutting and storing flowers—cutting straight across or at an angle on the stem, re-cutting before placing in a vase, mixing sugar and/or bleach in with water, or using seltzer water. There are good arguments for all of these, but the essentials are using a sharp blade for cutting, using tepid water for storing, and changing the water every day.

Plant many varieties to provide a riot of color. Don’t forget pastels such as powder-blue delphiniums and soft yellow foxglove, as well as bold red roses and royal purple iris. Bells of Ireland, an unusual plant with green blooms, is striking in almost any arrangement.  

Even if you have a special cutting garden, many other plants outside the garden can add to a bouquet. Shrubs such as lilacs, spirea, beauty bush, azalea, dogwood, and hydrangea can donate attractive filler. Ferns, wild grasses, and leafy perennials like wormwood also work well. In the spring, cherry and apple blossoms mingle nicely with daffodils and tulips, and in the fall you can add colorful autumn leaves in among mums, yarrow, asters, and baptisia.

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